West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo, Mamata Banerjee has made some rather anti-Hindu remarks in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. She has unabashedly accused the BJP and other Hindutva outfits of attempting religious conversions.
She said that two such attempts were thwarted by her administration. She was essentially referring to the two incidents at Malda and Alipurduar. Addressing BJP leader Manoj Tigga while speaking in the state Assembly, Banerjee said “stop religious conversions” and added, “we have thwarted these efforts. Why are your people doing all these.”
On February 2, a clash broke out between the activists of VHP and the Jharkhand Disom Party (JDP) at Alampur in Malda district. JDP activists had stormed a mass marriage ceremony which led to the clash.
Malda is a largely Muslim dominated area. Southern Malda is dominated by 59 per cent Muslim population, and Hindus are only 40 per cent in this part. Sujapur Eidgah- one of the largest Mosques in India is situated here. Overall, Malda (both Northern and Southern areas) are heavily Muslim-dominated with 48 per cent Hindus and 51 per cent Muslims.
BJP has gained massively in Malda and other bordering districts. Last year, it won from several of these constituencies during the Lok Sabha polls, despite such constituencies being Muslim dominated and also bearing the brunt of illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators.
At the root of cause BJP’s rise in the region and diminishing TMC vote share has been the noble groundwork carried out by the RSS.
Especially in North Bengal, where BJP won from all but one seat- Alipurduar, the growing RSS foothold has been a major factor.
The RSS has been running schools in the region helping Dalits and Tribals by imparting free education in the region. Not just schools, it has also been training villagers on how to produce organic fertilisers and grow vegetables.
It is running 210 schools in the Alipurduar district alone. The region is one of the most backward in the state with 45 per cent Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe population. The manner in which the RSS has worked towards the emancipation of Dalits has led to a political swing in favour of the BJP- forcing Mamata Banerjee to categorise it as “religious conversions”.
In fact, the RSS has been present in North Bengal for the past two decades. Now, it has started to make its presence felt in the tribal regions of the state- North Bengal and the Bengal-Jharkhand border, which have been for long seen as the Naxal corridor in the state.
Several districts of West Bengal such as West Midnapore, Bankura, Jhargram and Purulia bordering Jharkhand have remained infested with Maoists for long years and the security challenge lies for both state governments.
While the TMC has been involved in the killing of RSS workers in places like Purulia, the “Saffron Brigade” with its RSS camps, has been building a presence in the most remote areas of these districts and the RSS is well known among the tribal people for their welfare work in the region such as running schools for children.
The missionaries have been pretty active in the area and while Mamata Banerjee is today speaking of “religious conversions” in the region, the fact remains that the tribal population has faced cultural invasion for decades owing to illegal immigration, the activism of the missionaries and evangelists and the darkness of Naxalism for decades.
Mamata Banerjee has never spoken against Christian Missionaries in the region but has a serious problem with the welfare work carried out by RSS and VHP because, their hard work has started to translate in the form of votes as BJP’s vote share and chances of winning in border districts has grown exponentially in the last few years despite the high-handedness of the TMC.
Not once has Mamata Banerjee spoken about the conversion industry and the missionaries active in the region. However, the ruling TMC has been frequently attacking the RSS, even shutting down RSS-affiliate schools providing free education in the area.
RSS has risen as a self-less force amidst several issues plaguing the region. When the Kurmi Mahatos, a relatively well off community, were removed from the Other Backward Classes category and were granted the Scheduled Caste status, the tribals felt further alienated. Corruption in ration distribution has also been a persistent complaint.
The RSS has gained ground with its self-less work such as running in schools severely backward areas. It has helped Dalits and Tribals in preserving their Hindu identity and has also provided them with all the necessary social and economic facilities.
This has led to a major political shift towards the BJP, something that has led a panic-stricken Mamata Banerjee into attacking the BJP and organisations like RSS and VHP with false accusations of religious conversions.